The New Cities of the Web


When I visit Toronto to spend time with my client partner, I see a very specific city. I see the downtown, right under the CN tower (that nifty needle in the picture above). I see a steakhouse called Earl’s. I see the occasional friend I know mostly from online, for a quick coffee in between my other business. If I had a few extra hours, I would probably go in search of very specific things: a bookstore, a movie theater, some cool event with the web types hiding amongst the steel and glass.

My “where” is quite different than yours. Maybe you traveled there with kids. Maybe you are a startup type of person. Maybe you’re an insurance person or a real estate person. The way you see the city is different than me. The way you travel through airports is different. When we check into hotels, we want different things (I could care less about the view. I just want lots of plugs).

The New Cities of the Web

Companies will have a really difficult time customizing the universe to our needs and interests. Any site dedicated to “your best view of Boston” can’t work. Why? Because it’s that site’s curator’s best view. It’s a vote-up’s best view. It’s the wisdom of the masses washed against data that fits the masses but not everyone, the same way we don’t all wear the same shirt size or shoe size.

So the opportunity is to connect with the people we feel understand what we like. If Jacq likes a bookstore, I’ll love it. If Justin or Joe recommend a restaurant, I don’t have to think twice about it.

The new cities of the web aren’t marked by physical boundaries, but by our connections and relationships. More so than bookmarks, the new cities are predicated on what we like, who we know, and what opportunities we can connect into based on these two items. Believe me, my New York with Jeff Pulver is very different than my New York with Matt, and I love both experiences very much. It’s different than New York as curated by Clay, and all of these are of value to me.

Our new cities are based on who, not where.

Your Business and Marketplace in This New City

In the way old days (and now), a billboard was a great place to gather attention. If you were headed in a certain direction, the billboard might remind you to get a $1 medium iced coffee at McDonalds. The radio used to be a great tool to build your place in the marketplace. We were all listening to the same thing. Newspapers and local television told you where to go, what to do, what might be happening.

How will your business be seen in this new city? I just gave you the secret. Through people. Not entirely. You can’t live by tweets and chit-chat on Google+ alone. But there’s a lot more to the “where should I go” question answered by humans you know (or meta know) and appreciate than you’ll ever accomplish with a straight-on advertisement.

Build your connections. Make them personal and personable. Make there be a reason why people will recommend you, and why you’re the first person they think of when someone asks where to go, what to do, where to stay, what to eat, what to buy to handle this or that. To me, there’s no hotel in Boston besides the Colonnade. There’s no place to eat besides Legal Seafood. In Milwaukee, you have to go to AJ Bombers and so on.

The new cities of the web are built on who, and your business will be the same. Ready? Go. Become known. runs on the Genesis Framework

Genesis Theme Framework

The Genesis Framework empowers you to quickly and easily build incredible websites with WordPress. Whether you're a novice or advanced developer, Genesis provides you with the secure and search-engine-optimized foundation that takes WordPress to places you never thought it could go.

With automatic theme updates and world-class support included, Genesis is the smart choice for your WordPress website or blog.

Become a StudioPress Affiliate

  • jaybaer

    Brilliant message, Chris. One of my favorite Brogan posts this year.

    • Chris Brogan

      Thank you!

    • Geordie Wardman

      Saw this in my disqus digest, and had to read. Thanks to you both for all you do… I’ve learned a ton.

  • Tom Webster

    There is such gold in this post. I’m with Jay–one of my favorite things you’ve written lately.

    • Chris Brogan

      Thank you! It’s tricky to consider further, as now I’m thinking through “and then what?”

  • pamelamuldoon

    Love this post, Chris! You have me thinking of what my “best” of Minneapolis and St Paul are; the Twin Cities where I live. And of course, who on my list would I want to have share their “best” of in their city. Excellent viewpoint, thanks for sharing!

    • Chris Brogan

      Now that’s a post I’d read. : )

  • Raul Colon

    LOL funny last time I was in Boston I ate a Legal Sea Foods with Rob.

    Interesting that you mentioned that I am so loyal to things that are valuable that today I got a request on some stuff for visiting San Juan. The person had interests very far from mine so it was complicated to make a recommendation that would be of value. Still thinking of what recommendations I will send him.

    • Chris Brogan

      Exactly, sir. It’s tricky to promote or point out something useful to someone who aligns differently than you.

  • Steven Netsch

    Wow… I totally agree. Good-bye to old school frames about where we are and where the market resides.

    • Chris Brogan

      Precisely. That’s the hope. : )

  • Chris Wilson

    This is so spot on, I just returned from a trip to Europe where I went to several specific places in cities I’d never been to based on recommendations from people I have met at conferences or on Social Media. Great post Chris!

    • Chris Brogan

      Oh fun! I’m happy to hear that it worked out for you. : )

  • tobyjenkins

    Hi Chris. This post really resonated with me too. It makes for such great imagery!

    I am a huge believer that businesses and organisations have an enormous opportunity to build their own “houses”, “neighbourhoods” and “cities” based on the common interests and shared values of their teams and broader circles of their communities. As you’ve been writing about for years, the choice lies in opening up and humanising their business.

    Thanks for sharing.

    • Chris Brogan

      But it’s a strange concept, if you take this further, because in a way, I’m suggesting that there are fewer “signs,” such as it were. Imagine if you had to ask people for navigation all the time. That wouldn’t be any MORE helpful, right?

      • tobyjenkins

        Very true – asking for directions all the time would be exhausting!

        So rather than asking, we’re following the strings of personal relationships into and around a company/product/cause you name it… And therefore increases the importance of the people within the business? And the importance of each of those people being connected?

        You’ve really got me thinking here thanks Chris…

    • Drew Meyers

      “I am a huge believer that businesses and organisations have an enormous opportunity to build their own “houses”, “neighbourhoods” and “cities” based on the common interests and shared values of their teams and broader circles of their communities”

      I know I’m a bit late to the party (23 days), but I’d love to chat with you on this topic. It’s a major component to what I’ve been working on for the last year+.

  • Pingback: Tuesday, August 20, 2013 (Highlights: $17 Billion Tweet; Secret Document Reveals Chinese Elite's Fear of Christopher Buckley; Women Leading Men; Job Transition Tips; Building Brand You) -

  • cutemonster

    Chris, I love how your posts remove the clutter to hone in on ideas. With the pervasiveness of technology in our lives it still comes down to our connections as human beings that matter the most. Thanks for the pep talk Coach Brogan. :)

    • Chris Brogan

      Thank YOU! I appreciate your feedback. I’m glad it works. : )

  • Barry Chignell

    Great article Chris, really enjoyed reading it and agree completely. I recently wrote an article along the same lines, but regarding how photographers see things differently. Just another reason why every individual has their own opinions, wants, likes and dislikes (I also agree about the view!).

    As such, your bang on about the marketing message – tough challenge but one worth taking on and conquering :)

    • Chris Brogan

      Photographers are great people to spend time with, because you learn a lot more about what one sees and what one observes. : )

      • Barry Chignell

        Very true, although after a while people get annoyed with the “ooh, look at that light” and “oh, the lines in that building are great”. Ask my wife! heheh

      • Geordie Wardman

        No doubt. My wife is a photographer… and I’m learning at new ways to look at the same things all the time.

  • Steven Netsch

    Very cool Chris… We should talk about Cravi sometime soon. We share your philosophy about community. We just dropped our iPhone App and we’re starting to rev up.

    • Chris Brogan

      I’ll have to peek at it. : )

  • Pingback: Ideas Require Application

  • Pingback: Go Mobile Or No Go Nowhere

  • Pingback: Marriott, Moxy Hotels, BSUR and Deep, Deep, Deep Customer Understanding

  • Jose Palomino

    Great point.

    Networking is even more important now than ever.

  • Pingback: The Digital Economy. Why businesses should look beyond their backyard for exciting new opportunities | Walk Digital